Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has said the government wants to see the young people in the global fight to achieve climate justice for Bangladesh.
"With the recently declared special `Delta Fund’, we commit to promoting young people’s innovations and solutions in building greater resilience to combat climate emergency," he said.
Dr Momen made the remarks while addressing a digital dialogue titled "Climate Dialogue on Young People Leading Coastal Resilience to climate change" and launching ceremony of ‘Coastal Youth Action Hub' on Wednesday.
He hoped that this Hub will create more opportunities for vulnerable coastal young people and amplify their voice at the global stage.
Like the UN Secretary General, Dr Momen reiterated what he said, “There can be no Plan B because there is no planet B.”
The Foreign Minister said they are expected to reap the demographic dividend over the next couple of decades as majority of population is young and where youths are at the forefront of SDG implementation efforts.
"Our youths and especially the volunteers have been instrumental and inspirational in our efforts under our indigenous and tested strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in early warning of cyclone and emergency evacuation that has effectively reduced deaths and injuries from natural disasters," he said.
The Foreign Minister said youth-led organisations like YouthNet for Climate Justice and The International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), ActionAid Bangladesh, British Council Active Citizens are working on climate issues at the ground level.
"This year we have been declared as the OIC-Youth Capita 2020," he said.
The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh has a glorious history of the youth in the country -- from struggle for liberation under the great leadership of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to the heroic sacrifice during the War of Liberation in 1971, youths repeatedly showed the right path.
Under the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he said, Bangladesh has made tremendous achievements in involving and empowering the youth and Bangladesh's development has become a role model for many other developing countries.
Today, in the context of the phenomenal global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and menace of climate change, Dr Momen said, the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is more important than ever.
Critical Climate Challenge
He said climate change is the most critical global challenge of our times. "We’re experiencing our increasing vulnerability to climate change which is affecting agriculture, endangering food security, causing sea-level rise and the accelerated erosion of coastal zones and riverbank erosion thus increasing the intensity of natural disasters and triggering extinction of the species, uprooting our people from their homes and dwellings."
Following the trend of the last three decades, Bangladesh will see an average temperature increase of 1.0 degrees Celsius by 2030 and 1.4 Celsius by 2050 considering 1990 as the base year.
Dr Momen said this is translating into many challenges, including frequent natural disasters, degradation of forest areas, wetlands, and agricultural land leading to a plurality of socioeconomic issues.
By 2050, he said, one in every 45 people in the world and one in every seven people in Bangladesh will become displaced by climate change. "I’m afraid, these developments are irreversible. We’re talking about adaptation measures, and Bangladesh has emerged as a global leader for adaptation," said the Foreign Minister.
But, he said, they must remember that there is a limit to adaptation and they cannot just increase adaptation while the polluting countries do not adopt the necessary mitigation efforts. "So, climate change is real and happening."
Having the menaces of the COVID-19 and fast-aggravating climate change situation, the Foreign Minister said they are surely passing one of the most critical patches in the history of mankind.
"We need to be mindful that climate change and biodiversity loss would generate social and economic damage far larger than those induced by COVID-19," Dr Momen said.
Prioritising short-term economic growth and efficiency over long-term resilience will surely have huge societal costs, he said adding, "An effective engagement of the young people in our recovery plan will add great value."
The event was also joined by Nahim Razzaq, MP of Sariatpur -3 and the Convener of Climate Parliament Bangladesh as special guest.
Razzaq said the recent floods have created huge displacement in his constituency. “We all know about the impact of climate change in Bangladesh and globally, and it’s us who need to take climate action now.”
Ken O’Flaherty, the COP26 Regional Ambassador for Asia/ Pacific and South Asia also joined the webinar and noted, “It’s very clear to us that the climate change is the biggest threat to our planet and it’ll be the young people who will be the most affected group.”
"It’s critical that we change our narrative from portraying ourselves as most vulnerate to showcase the strength and resilience we have to the world," said Prof Dr Saleemul Huq, the Director of International Center for Climate Change and Development.
He urged the young people to tell the world the actions that have been taken by young people from Satkhira to Cox’s Bazar and all over country with a message that can inspire global leaders to learn from and support.
“We’ve to be very careful and be practical in our planning and implementation of climate action,” said Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmed, the Chairman of PKSF who led and contributed a number of policies in Bangladesh on climate change. Besides volunteerism, youths need to think from a broader aspect and learn things that will help them in their lives too while taking climate action.
Dr Ahmed also noted that they must set up priorities as we cannot do everything together. "Adaption to climate change should be the key priority of the Bangladesh as we need to develop in sustainable way."
“We’ve a lot to celebrate in terms of the progress we’ve made over the years both at policy level and at programme level when it comes to Bangladesh addressing climate change and its impacts," said Farah Kabir, the Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh.
The British Council intends to explore youth voices and choice in the realm of climate change to understand youth attitude and aspirations, amplify youth voice and support better youth policy making and “we’ll be engaging youth networks and other likeminded organization in doing the exercise,” said Dr. Shahnaz Karim, Director - Inclusive Communities, British Council.
Deputy Commissioner of Barishal and District Magistrate SM Ajior Rahman said, “The government has been working tirelessly to improve the living standards of the people of the coast.”
Folkert de Jager, First Secretary the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, said the biggest challenge for the delta plan is to financing the implementation which will be possible by creating hub for young people who will able to think outside of the books to apply new approaches, new techniques to the delta plan for the future generation of Bangladesh and this the most important time than ever.
Sheep Hafiza, equality and rights activist, also joined the webinar and spoke on the importance of advancing the empowerment of young people for effective resilience building to climate change while addressing gender-based violence that increases in any disaster situation.
Shakila Islam, Coordinator of YouthNet for Climate Justice and Sohanur Rahman, Chief Executive of Bangladesh Model Youth Parliament, jointly made presentation at the event and spoke on behalf of the coastal youth of Bangladesh where many young people joined the webinar.